Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dragon - 1977 - Kalahen

Dragon 
1977
Kalahen




01. Children Are Playing Game
02. Ballad
03. America
04. Les Hommes Bleus
05. Red Light
06. Kalahen

07. Psychedelic Brotherman   
08. Blues Ashes
09. Two Drops of Rain
10. Burning Light
11. Fanny (part 1-4)
12. J.V.'s Private Works]

Line-up/Musicians

- Bernard Callaert / rhythm & bass guitars, backing vocals
- Christian Duponcheel / keyboards, Mellotron, claviolin, flute, sax
- Georges Venaise / drums, vibes, flute
- Jean Venaise / guitars, string machine, lead vocals



This intriguing album was released posthumously from tracks recorded at the practicing room. So the record appears more like a good demo released on vinyl than a fully produced album. I still think it's a quite interesting piece of work, the recording method revealing the raw realities of the music creation instead of polished sonic contructions. I think the music is not very accessible though, due strange moods, contrasting changes and striking fuzziness. But there are great musical passages to be found from the songs, if one has the mood to listen the album through. There are lots of mellotrons, flutes and saxes on the instrumental basis, and some incoherent solutions create an interesting sense of surrealism, deepened by crayon colored fantasy sleeves. The B-side of the LP felt more interesting to me than the first one, being a home for two longer songs. "Red Light" starts the side with a beautiful, calm and lyrical piano movement, which transforms to a chaotic verse with heavily distorted guitars and screaming vocals. These two elements are tied together with mellotron and trumpet dominated parts, and they form a personal, weird and really menacing track. "Kalahen" runs for eighteen minutes, but is quite unbalanced for an epic symphonic piece. Still there are some really great musical moments on it, and the mixture felt to me like a psychedelic symphonic expressionism. The chaos seems to rise from strong, uncompromising notes of long duration, and the sounds to which they have been dressed on, not from quickly shifting directions on rhythmic levels like I felt occurring on Van Der Graaf Generator's "Pawn Hearts". If you are interested in rarer continental euro-prog, musical adventures are at your goal, or you should collect underground albums, then I would recommend this LP to you warmly.


Dragon (Belgian version)'s first album is one of those 'out of time' sort of records, where you'd swear it was from a different age, which, oddly enough, it has in common with their New Zealand namesakes. Dragon could quite easily pass for one of those 1970/71 LPs from the likes of Cressida or Spring, with no immediately apparent sign that the band are Belgian. Organ-heavy, with that post-'60s 'jamming' feel about it, the material is actually very good, despite its dated feel. It isn't the most Mellotron-heavy album ever, but Gone In The Wind (OK, I take the Belgian comment back) has some excellent string parts from Christian Duponcheel, and there's a bit of choir on Crystal Ball, but the other two tracks I've noted aren't even definite; a few notes of a string sound that may or may not actually be 'Tron.

Their second album, Kalahen, appears to be no more than a bunch of demos stuck together, although this was in 1977, when such things were almost unheard of (it was issued on CD in 1992 as Kalahen Plus, adding another six tracks). Stylistically, it doesn't seem that the band had moved on much from their debut, with the extra added non-benefit of fairly poor sound quality, including extraneous noise that wouldn't have made the final version. To be honest, the album's a bit of a mess; several tracks are no better than raw jams, and of the original six, the title track's the only one that makes the grade at all, and then only because it's so odd.

It's also the only one to feature any 'Tron, although two other tracks have what sounds like string synth. A side-long piece, Kalahen itself opens with 'Tron pipe organ, before great slabs of choir are dropped onto it from a great height; undoubtedly the album's Mellotronic highlight and probably its musical one too, despite its incoherence. There's more choirs on the first bonus track, Psychedelic Brotherman, but that would appear to be it. In fact, apart from that track, the rest of the bonus material actually lowers the quality of the overall release, especially J.V.'s Private Works (guitarist Jean Vanaise), which is a messy collage of musical snippets, none of which were really worth saving, to be honest.

So; Dragon's a good album in a very early '70s style, with a smattering of 'Tron.

1 comment:



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